Cooke’s win fulfills “lifelong dream” to be DA

awomack@macon.comNovember 6, 2012 

David Cooke unseated incumbent District Attorney Greg Winters on Tuesday night, winning the chief prosecutor’s job in the Macon Judicial Circuit.

Cooke took 43,134 votes in Bibb, Peach and Crawford counties -- about 55 percent of the ballots cast -- to Winters’ 35,197 votes.

Cooke, 43, said the victory fulfilled “a lifelong dream.”

As a prosecutor handling child murder cases in Atlanta a decade ago, someone asked him what he’d like to be doing in 10 years.

His reply: Be district attorney in the Macon circuit.

“We’ve always wanted to raise our children in the church where we met,” said Cooke, a Houston County prosecutor. He and his wife met at Macon’s First Baptist Church of Christ.

A few church members gathered with Cooke’s family, friends and supporters Tuesday night awaiting election returns at Cooke’s Washington Avenue campaign headquarters.

A group of about a dozen people sat behind computers in Cooke’s “war room,” while others mingled in another area of the building.

At one point during the night, Cooke took a break and went for a walk with his wife.

Winters, 39, awaited returns with friends, family and supporters at a friend’s home on Nottingham Drive.

The group included a few Macon circuit prosecutors.

Cooke, a Democrat, carried Bibb and Peach counties while Winters, a Republican, defeated Cooke in Crawford County.

Winters said he was disappointed to have lost the election.

“But at this point, I’ve got to get to work tomorrow,” he said, referring to the trial scheduled to begin later in this month for Damon Jolly, a man facing the death penalty if he’s convicted of the 2006 slaying of Bibb County deputy Joseph Whitehead.

Winters said the community should “get behind” Cooke because he has “a big job in front of him in January.”

Cooke said one of his first actions as district attorney will be to assign a prosecutor to handle only sex trafficking cases.

Asked about other changes to the office’s staff, Cooke said, “I think every DA makes his own individual evaluation of staff.”

He said he also wants to examine cases involving crimes against women and children to get more information about how they have been handled.

Winters was seeking a four-year term after defeating Cooke in a 2010 runoff election to fill the seat left vacant when Howard Simms resigned to run for a judgeship. Winters won that contest by about 2,500 votes.

Allegations of push polling brought the race to a fever pitch in early October when Winters accused Cooke of paying for phone surveys that spread “falsehoods” and sought to instill doubt in Winters’ abilities as district attorney.

Cooke maintained that the surveys were legitimate and simply sought to determine voters’ opinions.

In recent weeks, Cooke attacked Winters’ record as a prosecutor and as district attorney, contending that Winters was soft on the prosecution of murders and sex crimes.

To contact writer Amy Leigh Womack, call 744-4398.

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